How Robin Williams Saved The Worst Happy Days Episode In History

Robin Williams had a stunning amount of great roles in his long career, but even when he was in something not so great, he was usually the best part. And rather than slowly acquiring these attention-warranting abilities, Williams had them right at the beginning for his breakout guest spot on Happy Days. Some of the hit series’ cast got together and waxed happily about Williams unwittingly turning what could have been the sitcom’s worst episode into instantaneously fertile spinoff grounds.

Anson “Potsie” Williams, Marion “Mrs. C.” Ross, and Don “Ralph” Most all spoke with THR about their time with Robin Williams on the show. Anson Williams really drove it home that the Mork episode (which happened in Season 5) was “the worst script in the history of Happy Days,” and that it was basically inspired by show creator Garry Marshall’s son, who wanted to see an alien character show up. The actor they’d originally gotten to play Mork up and quit mere days before the episode was to go before a live audience. Before panic set in, somebody mentioned Robin Williams’ name.

Here’s how the former Potsie and Ralph Malph described Williams’ debut, which inspired the mass of writers to patch the script up on the spot, which was extremely rare.

Williams: “We watched Robin Williams improv, create this whole character in front of our eyes. ‘Nanu nanu,’ sitting on his head, the whole ball of wax. P.S. the next evening, it was one of the best shows in the history of television.”Most: “It really was. And there were all these ABC executives there because there was so much buzz, and…four days later, we found out he had his own show.”

That’s a pretty awesome experience for everyone involved. The episode, “My Favorite Orkan,” is one of the weirdest in Happy Days’ eleven-season run, even without Williams’ stellar performance involved. He reprised his role a season later, after Mork and Mindy had already become a smash. Despite both episodes happening after Happy Days literally jumped the shark – do people still use that phrase with assertion? – Mork added a dash of maniacal weirdness that didn’t often make its way into the gee-golly world of the Cunninghams.

Check out the entire interview below.

I hope someone apologized to Marion Ross for having her lovely story just faded out like that. In any case, R.I.P. Mork.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.